I don't know about you guys but the list for the Oscars this year has me pretty excited. The fact that Get Out and Shape of Water are both best picture contenders is just cool and makes me super glad to be alive during a time when we're getting these kinds of movies. However, since talking about best picture contenders is something you'll find just about everyone talking about, I'd like to take a little time to talk about a category a little more near and dear to my heart: Best Editing.
Also, of course, spoilers!
Those nominees are:
"Baby Driver," Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos
"Dunkirk," Lee Smith
"I, Tonya," Tatiana S. Riegel
"The Shape of Water" Sidney Wolinsky
"Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri," Jon Gregory
Baby Driver is amazing because to me the edit is indistinguishable from every other facet of the movie. The edit was there in the script, it's in the cinematography, even in the acting. The edit was king of this movie from start to finish and the fact that Wright with Machliss and Amos pulled it off is a minor miracle. And it's so damn fun. This might be the most fun edit I've ever seen in a movie. Every cut feels motivated either by character or mood or both and everything feels deliberate, and to me an edit should be first and foremost deliberate.
Oh, also, if you didn't get a chance to check this article out about how they edited the movie while they were shooting it...Do so. It's really interesting.
Dunkirk is tough to talk about because it's been a while since I seen it, but what I think it probably does better than any other film on this list is using editing to make everything feel tense. Sometimes it holds on a shot a little too long, sometimes it's cutting super fast with the action and you can't keep track of where everyone's at - all of it is tense and paranoia inducing. Some may disagree with me on this, but I think that's also what makes the often jarring cuts in time also work - it's all in service to the suspense...Which is to say this is all pretty standard for a Nolan movie edited by Lee Smith.
I can't imagine the puzzle box it was editing I, Tonya together. And while there's a lot to unpack here with unreliable narrators and how they handle that via the edit, I just want to note how great the "triple axel" scene was. While they were able to get Margot Robbie to do a lot of her own ice skating in this movie, there was no way they were going to get her to actually do a triple axel since it's something pros have to practice literally years to do. So it was always going to be a little faked, even if they get somebody else's legs to do it. And yet...The way they built up to that moment with all the character's interviews explaining how difficult it was, and how nervous Tonya was leading up to that routine - when they cut to the close up slow-mo shot of just her legs twisting in the air and landing it, it feels great. Not like they cheated, but like there was no other way to shoot and edit that scene. I loved that.
I don't have much to gush about for The Shape of Water except that, like Baby Driver, I can tell this movie was by and large edited in Del Torro's head before they even rolled the cameras. It's deliberate and confident and very un-flashy - so it's a Del Torro movie. Not going to lie, this movie can sweep everything at the Oscars and I will not be mad.
Three Billboards is an interesting one because while this movie is very funny I think this is also one of the best uses of using a cut to hurt. There is a flashback scene in this movie where you find out that the mom's relationship with the daughter was not so great, and that the last thing the mom said to her daughter was fucking awful. And the way it's edited you get just enough time to let those terrible words sink in before it cuts to the mom, in present day, feeling fucking miserable. And you feel miserable with her. Overall, I felt the movie did a great job of keeping you in pace with the character and what they felt moment to moment, so definitely not disappointed that this was picked.
Finally, I'd like to add one I think should at least have been nominated: Phantom Thread. If you haven't seen this movie, I highly recommend doing so. It's uncomfortable and gorgeous and oddly funny, like many other PTA movies. The editing has this different quality that is hard to describe. Best way I can put it is that most movies cut to moments that are meaningful and advance the story, but Phantom Thread makes moments meaningful simply with the cut. Who knows, maybe that's all in my head, but feeling that sort of "edit as author" made the movie even more engaging to me.
As for who will win, there's a pretty cynical albeit realistic way I've heard to best predict who wins the technical awards - replace the word "Best" with "Most."
I've got some problems with this line of thinking, though. A. Gravity won in 2014, and it has what, seven cuts?* B. It cheapens a lot of work that goes into the movies that won even if they did have a lot of edits. C. Molly's Game would've been on this list for 2017, and it's not.
All that being said, I think the movie with "Most Editing" - Baby Driver - is also totally the right pick for the winner. Like I said before, the movie is its editing and the editing is the movie and I think it deserves the win for an achievement like that. But that's just, like, my opinion, man.
Who do you guys think should win and what did you think of the editing in these films? Think there are any big snubs? Let me know!
*I don't actually know what the number is. But it's low. Really low.